Mitchell Johnson: Why Joel Paris should replace Mitchell Starc when he retires & what Stuart MacGill taught me

Mitchell Johnson
The Nightly
4 Min Read
A top-order collapse had the Aussies struggling before Green notched his second Test century.

Australia is currently watching one of its best-ever generation of fast bowlers.

But we are now closer to the end than the start of the careers of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

Starc is at the back-end of his career and we are still waiting to see which direction he will go after the next summer’s Test series against India.

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He is 34 and Josh Hazlewood is 33. We know that soon there will be some change in the Australian team.

Timing is everything in professional sport and it means now is the perfect time to be performing in domestic cricket.

There is a crop of fast bowlers that will be pushing for spots over the next couple of seasons, but it is important to remember — with Starc in mind — that a left-arm fast bowler is a specialist position.

Australia has always treated lefties like gold dust, as I found out when I was first picked.

Cricket really is about taking your opportunities.

Spencer Johnson is a short-form gun, and if he commits to red ball cricket he could be a real dark horse.

And there is another big left-armer from WA who has worked his way back from a long run of injuries and is now putting his hand up.

It might not be too late for Joel Paris to play for Australia.

I remember facing Joel when I first moved over to Perth, playing grade cricket against Claremont. He was a lot zippier then, but I remember facing him on a slow-ish pitch and it came on pretty quick. It was swinging and it was fast.

He’s gone through a bit in his career and there was always that potential there. He was pretty consistent from early on.

If you’re a quality left-armer who can swing the ball, or you have got that extra bit of pace, it’s a different angle and national selectors are always interested.

He was always on the radar, but then he had all those injuries and has had to work to get himself back.

But I don’t think it is ever too late and Paris, in certain conditions, will be very valuable.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06: Joel Paris of Western Australia celebrates after taking the wicket LBW of Jack Edwards of New South Wales during the Sheffield Shield match between Western Australia and New South Wales at WACA, on February 06, 2024, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)
Joel Paris would be a valuable addition to Australia’s bowling attack. Credit: Will Russell/Getty Images

What he has done recently in domestic cricket has certainly done him no harm. He is keeping his name out there and ultimately, he seems to be enjoying his cricket and the group of guys he is with and enjoying winning trophies.

Cricket really is about taking your opportunities. Early in my career I played with Stuart MacGill.

It was always interesting speaking to him about where he felt he could fit into that team and it was only really when Warnie was done or when he went through his own issues that MacGill got a proper crack.

It is always about being ready and your mindset just has to be fixed on playing your best cricket all the time and just hope for that chance.

You wonder with those sorts of guys, what they could have been and what they could have done at the top level. It is similar now with Australia’s generation of great fast bowlers.

At the very top, you have to just be ready and when that opportunity comes, you have to make the most of it — just like Joel Paris has.

Mitchell Johnson says he learnt a lot from Stuart MacGill about making the most of opportunities.
Mitchell Johnson says he learnt a lot from Stuart MacGill about making the most of opportunities. Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP

WA’s cricket team have just won their third straight one-day title and could make history in the Sheffield Shield too.

They are among the greatest domestic teams this country has ever seen.

Paris’ story was one of the things I enjoyed most.

He was picked after not playing a game in the Marsh Cup this season. They look after him a bit because they want him to get through and play as many games for WA as possible.

What I liked about that decision was Joel himself put his career in his own hands by coming forward and telling selectors he wanted to play and was ready to go, even though there was a Sheffield Shield game starting just days later.

I remember in a one-day series in India in 2009, I rolled my ankle in the first game, got it strapped up, finished my overs and took a couple of wickets.

I got to the next game and I was told that I wasn’t playing. No one had spoken to me about it, so I spoke up in the team meeting. I said: “hang on a minute, why am I not playing? I finished the game, I’m all good”.

In the Marsh Cup final, Paris came in, took four wickets, and helped deliver WA yet another trophy.

It takes a lot of confidence to do that and a lot of belief. When you haven’t played a game all year in that competition, to be able to put your hand up and say “yep, I am confident enough to do it”, is really impressive.

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